The metaphor: “I’m dead inside.”
Now, this is a bit of a challenging one. Generally 5 words or more are needed for a full analysis, and here we just have a condensed 4 word statement. But still, let’s see what can be done with this.
First off, we start with some idioms.
– you don’t have much life left inside you.
– you are one of the living dead, just a zombie.
– you don’t have much of a life.
– you are rotten on the inside, but hide this on the outside.
– there is something inside you that is going rotten.
– your life is as good as over.
– you are lacking a life of your own.
– a cold person.
Now, because of the structure of this death, i.e. inside, we can be fairly sure that this person has problems communicating this to significant others. This is a secret death, an inner change that is masked by what is on the outside. In psychiatry, such a state is often referred to as a “smiling depression.” Feels tragically depressed on the inside, looks happy on the outside.
Such a person attempts to tell others how awful they feel and often no one believes them or takes them seriously. One only needs to see the news stories that follow a young suicide where people wax lyrical about how shocking it was because they always seemed so happy and confident and had everything to live for. The suicide comes as a complete mystery to everyone, no one even suspected anything was wrong.
There’s a social script for an emotional death, and if you don’t follow it, the seriousness of your emotional situation may well just be ignored everyone around you or simply disregarded.
Now, what we know from this metaphor is that it is about the body and the death of the body. This is a logical extension of “The Hurts”, or metaphor of emotional injury, and this is specifically about identity – a mismatch between what the person experiences themselves to be and how others see them to be.
Now, think about these two possible scenarios:
1. Dead on the outside, alive on the inside.
2. Dead on the inside, alive on the outside.
What has died here is not the outer identity (i.e. what others see), but rather the inner identity, of how they see and experience themselves. Chances are high that no one will have noticed.
Die on the outside, then everyone will see that something is different and that there is very clearly a problem.
So, what we have here is a situation whereby the person is maintaining a state of falsehood in the relationships they hold with others.
Self analysis in this situation may well feel like an autopsy – it’s all too late to change or do anything about it, it’s all over anyway. The only that is left is the falsely positive view that others hold of the client.
So, in terms of exploring metaphors with this client, I’d be interested to know the mechanism of the death. This will reveal much about how the person relates to others and begin to give us some indications of what to change.
Here is something worth mentioning at this juncture: physical injury metaphors, “The Hurts”, reveal a person’s emotional and relational schemas, i.e. the recurring themes and patterns in their emotional life.
What we know here is that they have reached threshold and cannot support such a damaging schema any longer. Things will need to change, they will need to change the way they relate to other people, their position in the world and so on.
…..they need to create a better life for themselves.